Coronavirus Guidance for Property

Update 10 August 2020

Updates on the following to include the more detailed guidance on when to wear face coverings:

Update - 7 August 2020

Government guidance has been enhanced to state that those leading services do not need to wear a face covering.  Please refer to Guide for Face Coverings for more information.  

Updates 3 August 2020

Guidance must be read in the context of where you live as devolved administrations in Scotland and Wales may have different guidelines. 

If you are based one of the areas below, please refer to the government guidelines about the restrictions in place during a local lockdown

Interview with Director of Property Support

The Property Support team have been working hard throughout the lockdown to produce relevant guidance for managing trustees and ministers based on the government guidelines.  You can listen to this interview with the Director of Property Support, Stephen Hetherington in which he explains more about his team’s work.

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 Further information can be found on:

If you have a specific question, please contact your District Property Secretary or Property Support

Guide to Re-opening & Managing Your Church Building (3 Aug*)

The Guide to Re-Opening and Managing Your Church Building introduces managing trustees to the practical steps they need to consider as they re-open their church building for various activities.  This is then supported by individual ‘themed guidance’ for different user groups or activities, including worship and church services – published separately below.  

First Steps 

For any activity in a church building, there are 2 assessments to take which underpin any activity. 

  1. If a church building has been closed, please work through the Re-Opening a Building Checklist (Word) or (pdf version)

    • Legionella can occur when water is stagnant for long periods of time. The bacteria can form where droplets of water remain stagnant. During this unprecedented closure of our church buildings, the risks of this happening are increased.  As some churches are now planning for reopening, it is important that this risk is taken very seriously as part of the overall process of conducting a Re-Opening a Building Checklist (see above). 
  2. A Covid-19 Risk Assessment  (Word)* or (pdf version)* with an Action Plan.  This assessment will help trustees to think through what needs to be put in place in terms of social distancing, good hygiene and cleaning regimes.  The government now states that a risk assessment on Covid-19 is mandatory to comply with H&S regulations.  Please note that churches can choose to use other risk assessment forms if that is their preference.

In the Cleaning Churches during Covid-19, there is guidance provided on adapting cleaning regimes for church buildings.

TMCP has produced guidance and a template for How to Support Test and Trace

This guidance must be read in the context of where you live as devolved administrations in Scotland and Wales may have different guidelines.  

If a local lockdown has been introduced, then those guidelines must be followed.  Please refer to www.gov.uk/coronavirus for updated information.   

*3 Aug 2020 - updated Covid-19 Risk Assessment to reflect new government guidance on face coverings

Guide to Using Your Worship Space (10 Aug*)

The decision to re-open a church needs serious consideration and a thorough understanding of what is required in terms of planning and health and safety requirements. There is no compulsion to re-open if Managing Trustees do not feel it can be done safely, or it is too soon.  As our guidance states: 

  • It needs to be well planned, both before the opening and kept under review once the building is in use.
  • Do not assume that you can immediately do things ‘as you used to do’ and accept that saying ‘no’, ‘not yet’ or ‘not like this’ can be positive decisions.

The Guide to Re-Opening and Managing Your Church Building introduces managing trustees to the practical steps they need to consider as they reopen their church building for various activities.  This is then supported by individual ‘themed guidance’ for different user groups or activities, including worship and church services – published separately below. 

To view the government guidance, please refer to the Safe Use of Places of Worship

This guidance must be read in the context of where you live as devolved administrations in Scotland and Wales may have different guidelines.  

If a local lockdown has been introduced, then those guidelines must be followed.  Please refer to www.gov.uk/coronavirus for updated information.   

*Updated 10 Aug 2020 to reflect enhanced  government guidance on when to wear a face covering

Guide for Other Property Users (10 Aug*)

Under its roadmap to lift restrictions, the government has outlined that certain user groups or businesses can re-open.  A number of these may have an impact on Methodist Church property and are dealt with in the specific guidance listed below.  

This guidance must be read in the context of where you live as devolved administrations in Scotland and Wales may have different guidelines.  

If a local lockdown has been introduced, then those guidelines must be followed.  Please refer to www.gov.uk/coronavirus for further information.   

Leases and Licences

If you have questions about leases or a license, please refer to TMCP's FAQ's Regarding Leases during Covid-19.  If you have a specific query, then you may need to contact TMCP

*10 Aug 2020 - Updated to reflect new government guidelines on when to wear a face covering

Guide for Construction, Repairs and Inspections (14 July*)

Government policy is encouraging the construction industry to restart activities, on that basis, it is now acceptable for churches to consider undertaking maintenance, repairs and building projects. This must only occur if the works can meet the strict guidance for social distancing and the safety of workers and church members. 

Please refer to the Guide for Construction, Repairs and Inspections for Churches & Manses as it covers a different of areas of construction, together with other factors that trustees need to consider in discussion with their professional advisors and contractors.

This guidance must be read in the context of where you live as devolved administrations in Scotland and Wales may have different guidelines.  

If a local lockdown has been introduced, then those guidelines must be followed.  Please refer to www.gov.uk/coronavirus for further information.   

Buying and Selling

Please refer to TMCP's guidance on Covid 19 and Residential Conveyancing Transactions

If your query is not covered in the guidance, please contact with TMCP regarding specifics.  

Quinquennial Inspections and Gas Safety Checks

Please refer to the new Connexional guidance for Quinquennial Inspections for further information.

Gas Safe has published specific guidance during the outbreak, which you can find here

If churches or Circuits wish to understand more about what professional firms are undertaking during this time they should contact one of the Surveyors’ Panel or alternatively their local contacts.

Vandalism

The following actions are suggested:

  • Notify the local police to report the crime 

  • Notify your property insurer of a potential claim, for example Methodist Insurance and Ecclesiastical

*Updated on 14 July 2020 to reflect new document structure 

Covid-19 Funding (10 August*)

Funding and fundraising advice from the VCSE sector during COVID-19:

UK Community Foundations - Postcode search to find local Community Foundation, to view funding opportunities during COVID-19.

The National Lottery Community Fund - List of National Lottery funding opportunities and the changes to their programmes due to COVID-19.

Charity Finance Group Guidance - CFG provides financial management advice & support to the VCSE sector. This page sets out its COVID-19 guidance to charities.

Covid-19 Funders - Page produced by London Funders, the membership body for funders and investors in London’s civil society. Page brings together advice for funders during Covid-19.

Fundraising Regulator Events Guidance - this page sets out the Fundraising Regulator’s advice on fundraising during COVID-19.

Charities Aid Foundation - Hub for the latest funding and resources to help charities and other social sector organisations throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

Government Intiatives 
The Chancellor announced a temporary VAT relief to supplies of food and non-alcoholic drinks from restaurants, cafés and similar premises across the UK, as well as for accommodation and attractions.  From 15 July 2020 to 12 January 2021, the reduced (5%) rate of VAT will apply to these supplies subject to meeting the criteria set out in the guidance.  Charities that provide holiday accommodation or hospitality and manage cafés and restaurants should ensure that they are aware of the planned changes.

There is also the Eat Out to Help Out Scheme, which a church café may consider.  
 

Grants Online is the UK's most comprehensive and up to date UK grant funding information service. Updated on a daily basis, Grants Online informs you of grant funding opportunities from the European Union, UK Government Agencies, the Lottery as well as Grant Making Trusts & Foundations.  A number of organisations have launched funding schemes to mitigate the effects and impact of the Coronavirus locally.  We expect that the number of such grant schemes will increase over the next few weeks. Information on these schemes can be found here

Fundraising Support during Covid-19 & Beyond
During this uncertain time, Ecclesiastical want to provide you with the help and advice that you need to continue to protect your church and its community. These resources are designed to be helpful both now and into the future as our communities come back together.  Topics include:

Civil Society

The Civil Society has collated a list of grant funding for charities during the outbreak.  Click here to view the details.  

Heritage Alliance (of which the Methodist Church is a member) has produced COVID-19 Guidance for the Heritage Sector. This includes a Covid 19 Guidance Hub and Covid-19 Funding Hub which outlines the advice and sources of national and regional funding to help mitigate the effects of the pandemic.

The Arts Council has announced the availability of grants up to the value of £35k to help with urgent operational costs following loss of income, including:

  • rent or other building costs
  • staff costs
  • overheads such as utilities, insurance etc.
  • costs associated with keeping your organisation operational over the next six months

You must have experience of delivering work that was funded (directly or indirectly) by bodies such as Arts Council England, National Lottery Heritage Fund, National Lottery Community Fund, local authorities, universities, public sector bodies, trusts and foundations, libraries, etc. Your organisation needs to have been part of the delivery of publicly funded work, even if they didn’t directly apply for the funding themselves. Application can be made via online application forms. Further guidance can be found here.

The NLCF has been chosen to administer a large part of the money the government has made available to frontline charities. This is not likely to be relevant to most churches. However, churches are eligible for the Community Fund’s general funds. Although there is no dedicated emergency fund, all the funding decisions made for the next six months will be devoted to addressing the current crisis.

To reach those groups best placed to support their communities at this vital time they will prioritise faster payments for existing grant holders and applicants using the following criteria: 

  • activities specifically geared to supporting communities through this crisis
  • helping organisations overcome any liquidity issues caused by COVID19.

Projects must address one or more of the three strategic priorities:

  1. bringing people together and build strong relationships in and across communities
  2. improving the places and spaces that matter to communities
  3. helping more people to reach their potential, by supporting them at the earliest possible stage.

To find out about the open programmes click here

*Updated 10 Aug 2020 to add new links from the government

Looking After Empty Church Buildings

 If a building continues to remain empty, then there are a few simple steps to take to ensure ongoing security, safety and condition of the property.  These include:

  1. Weekly Inspection - An individual from  property team (or individuals on a rota basis) to visit once a week to make an internal and external inspection.  
  2. Communication - Ensure that communication is maintained between parties and that local Circuit and District policies are adhered to during this time.  As well, be aware of lone working practices and government guidance on social distancing. 

  3. Security - Ensure that all perimeter fences/railings/gates, security lighting and other deterrents to thieves (particularly lead theft) are maintained or repaired.   Ensure that all CCTV is working and notices are in place.  Smaller rural churches might check if local neighbours, neighbourhood watch or wider CCTV coverage can be asked to also monitor the property (where practical).

  4. Outside the building - Check the gutters, flashings, downpipes and gullies are not blocked/damaged from ground level and where practical.  Check for any break-ins or vandalism.  
  5. Church grounds - If the grass is mowed using the church's equipment, it should be sanitised after use.   

    Caring for God's Acre has some advice on allowing natural wild flowers and how to minimising the amount of mowing that is needed.

  6. Inside the building - check for any leaks to the mains water supply, other pipes running through out the building and the heating radiators/pipes.  As well, it is advisable to run the hot and cold taps for 5 minutes in order to prevent legionella.  If a manse is empty, it is recommended to remove shower heads as well. 

  7. Heating - As summer draws to a close, it might be beneficial to ensure that some heating is retained in the building to avoid any issues with pipes bursting if there is a cold snap.
  8. Weekly Checks - If the fire alarm or fire detection system is normally checked weekly, then test it.  If there is a mechanical organ, it would beneficial to play for 15 minutes to keep the moving parts clean and from sticking (see below for detailed steps).  
  9. Post - Collect the post if not redirection or suspended. 
  10. Leaving - When leaving the church, ensure that all doors, windows and other points of access are secured.

If you have any concerns, please liaise with your District Property Secretary or Circuit Property Steward.   

Organs

For a church with a larger or mechanically complex organ, prolonged lack of use will result in long-term problems with its performance.  If an organist is available in the neighbourhood, then they can practise to keep all the action parts moving.  If an organist is not available, then the person performing the weekly inspection could carrying out the following steps:

  1. Switch the organ on (consult with your regular organist, as every instrument is different)
  2. Pull out all the stops (or press them down, if the instrument has stop tabs)
  3. One at a time, press every key (black and white) on each keyboard of the instrument, and all of the pedals. Note that the organ operates differently from a piano; keys should be pressed rather than struck.
  4. If any faults occur, such as notes not sounding, or continuing to sound after the key has been released, make a note and consult with your organist or organ tuner.
  5. Cancel all stops by pushing them in (or up for stop tabs).
  6. Switch off the organ.

The purpose of this is to run through all the stops on all keyboards, and the pedalboard to keep leatherwork from sticking and keep electrical contacts clean. 

Vandalism

The following actions are suggested:

  • Notify the local police to report the crime 

  • Notify your property insurer of a potential claim, for example Methodist Insurance and Ecclesiastical

Bats

If your church is known to have bats, then hopefully surfaces will have been covered.  Ideally a church building with bats that affect worship areas will not be open to anyone until it has had a thorough clean, which will have to wait until multiple people are able to safely enter, and appropriate PPE has been sourced.

Any works carried out will be subject to the usual legislation relating to bat conservation and if the trustees are concerned about its bat population then do call the National Bat Helpline on 0345 1300 228

*Updated 26 June 2020

 

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